OP-ED: My Red Light is redefining sex work
Living and working in Amsterdam is fast. We talk fast, we eat fast and we sure as hell bicycle fast, but often we forget to slow down and think about the timeless city and all of the progressive achievements it's denizens have built for us. The Red Light District is actually a place most Amsterdammers try to avoid, it's cramped and overrun with people standing in the bike lane, but the district offers us the unique opportunity to become acquainted with one of the city’s oldest profession, sex work.
With the term 'sex work' we mean: the transaction that takes place between two people where sexual acts are traded for money or other services. Sex work is an umbrella term that holds more than just prostitution: it's also webcamming, exotic dancing, pornography, phone sex - the list goes on! There are many different reasons for engaging in sex work – some people engage in sex work to supplement their income or in exchange for gifts, some may do it for fun or pleasure. Another important note to make on sex work is the difference with trafficking, which is a form of sexual exploitation.
Sex work innovation
A few months ago, CHOICErs met with Lyle Muns - a sex worker in Amsterdam, who was recently featured in a New York Times article which focuses on one of his newest projects called “My Red Light”. This innovative project aims to increase the safety and transparency of sex work in Amsterdam what the times calls “an experiment in empowering prostitutes”.
Lyle was kind enough to share his experiences with the CHOICE team back at the last Annual General Meeting. His presentation to CHOICErs transferred valuable insight into a line of work that is often excluded from conversation. Speaking so frankly about his daily troubles and triumphs, Lyle challenged those active within CHOICE to take a more ‘radical’ approach to sex work, which includes honesty and directness.
Establishing a new normal
The Times article is a welcome reminder that Lyle’s approach is gaining traction. Establishing a cooperative like “My Red Light” will hopefully become the new normal in Amsterdam. Sex work is as complicated as any other industry, and it deserves to be treated with the same the respect that other professions seem to take for granted. There is still a lot of work to be done to reduce safety hazards endemic to the practice (such as reducing the number of trafficked individuals), and to empower sex workers to make their own decisions about their workplaces.
In our op-ed's CHOICErs get the chance to shed their light on what they think matters in the fight for equal sexual and reproductive health and rights for all. This contribution was written by our youth advocate Dante Della Gatta.